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Belém

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Belém, located near the mouth of the Amazon River in northern Brazil, is the capital and largest city of the state of Pará.

Contents

Understand[edit]

Belém is on the banks of the Bay of Guajará, which is formed by a set of islands and river mouths on the estuary of the Amazon river. Its river port helps putting into motion the Northern region of Brazil.

The city was established in 1616, after the construction of "Forte do Presépio", today "Forte do Castelo", on the banks the Pará river. Belém is, in a way, a synthesis of the culture and the history of Pará and the Amazon with native indian influence in the food and culture. It became an extremely wealthy city with the Rubber Boom at the end of the 19th century and many beautiful colonial buildings from this era are still visible.

Every year, in the second Sunday of October, it is celebrated in Belém, one of the largest catholic procession of the world, Círio de Nazaré.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

Huge bus terminal a few kilometers east of the center. Many local buses pass here. It is possible to travel by air-conditioned coach to Belém from most major points in Brazil. However, due to its relative isolation, travel times can be quite lengthy (Examples 12h to São Luís, 27 hours to Fortaleza) 36 to 42h to salvador- especially from the south.

By plane[edit]

There are regular international flights linking Belém to Cayenne, Georgetown, Paramaribo and Miami, and many direct domestic flights linking Belém to Brasilia, Fortaleza, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Macapá.

Bus Pratinhas to/from Presidente Vargas, and Marex to/from Praça da República.

Taxi to center R$ 20-30 (you can try to negotiate, but you can also help the taxi association to promote the «taximetro», with fair prices for everyone).

By boat[edit]

Passenger terminal at the north end of the docks. Many daily boats to nearby islands, including twice to Rio Branco. Also to Macapá, Santarém Belem and Manaus, with connections further north and west. Locals sling hammocks to sleep but air conditioned cabins are available on the larger boats. This is a great way to travel see (and hear) the river, and meet people.

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

There is one major long distance coach terminal at Sao Braz. There are many local busses travelling all over the city at often exhilirating and reckless speeds. The number of buses passing Avenida Presidente Vargas is nothing short of astonishing, and you can get virtualy anywhere within Greater Belém from here. The challenge lies in finding the right bus, and also getting onboard, as it will stop anywhere on a stretch of some 2-300 metres, or atempt to pass straight. Do as the locals: Wave and run for it!

Another transport "hub" is in front of the bus terminal, next to São Bráz, only slightly less chaotic.

Most buses run until about 11PM, but minibuses go virtually around the clock on major roads.

By bicycle[edit]

If you for some strange reason find yourself in possesion of a bike while in town, there are a great number of cycle lanes along the main avenues.

See[edit][add listing]

Belém is a lively and friendly city but it can look quite unappealing at first sight. There are a lot of modern high rises, but between them particularly in Cidade Velha and Campinas there are a vast number of well preserved colonial buildings, from the rubber boom and earlier. Many of the grander ones now house official bodies and there has been a recent drive to preserve them. Belém has many attraction, here are some of many attractions the city offers.

  • Estação das Docas (Revitalised docks with bars, shops, music etc.)
  • Complexo Feliz Lusitânia (Complex Happy Portugal)
  • Casa das Onze Janelas (House of Eleven Windows)
  • Mercado Ver-o-Peso (See-the-Weight Market) - the old fish market a large and lively traditional market. Here you will find fish, fruit, vegetables, regional items and offers a good insight into traditional local culture.
  • Mercado Ver-o-Rio (See-the-River), bars and a boating lake.
  • Forte do Castelo The old fortress in the oldest part of town.
  • Catedral da Se The oldest church in Belem.
  • Praça Batista Campos (Batista Campos Square)
  • Museu de Artes de Belém (Belém Arts Museum)
  • Museu Emilio Goeldi (Emílio Goeldi Museum). The zoo.
  • Praça da República (The Square of the republic). The main square with statues and the Teatro da Paz.
  • Teatro da Paz (Theater of Peace), Praça da República. Tue - Fri 9 AM - 5 PM, Sat - 2 PM. Rivals the Manaus opera house as a symbol of the rubber boom's riches. Guided tours every hour on the hour last 30 minutes. R$ 4, Tuesdays free.  edit
  • Bosque Rodrigues Alves (Botanical Garden Bosque Rodrigues Alves). A large section of the the original forest (with some a lake, fish, animals and a cafe) perhaps a square kilometer in area ten minutes by car from the city centre.
  • Mangal das Garças - the region's vegetation, animals and food can be appreciated in this large park for tourists just off the city centre

Do[edit][add listing]

Many of the city's highlights can be taken in with a walk along the rivers edge, starting with the docks and continuing to the old fort. Numerous old churches along the way are worth a look, and the bustling market life is not to be missed.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Belém has a range of regional specialties. See Pará for the full menu.

  • Regional Ice Creams: made with fruits like Açaí, Cupuaçú, Taperebá, Bacurí, Graviola, etc. Best ice cream maker is Sorveteria Cairú, several branches around town. One of the most popular Cairu branches is at Estação das Docas which hosts a number of other restaurants and souvenir shops (Station of the docks).
  • Tacacá: a delicious soup made with shrimp, tucupi (a broth made with wild cassava) and jambu (Acmella oleracea). It must be served extremely hot in a cuia and it can be served with pepper or not.
Caldeirada Paraense
  • Caldeirada Paraense: is made with fish, shrimp, eggs, onion, potatoes, tomatoes, red pepper, tucupi and jambu. It must be served hot with rice and pirão.
  • Maniçoba: is made with leaves of Manihot, salted pork, dried meat and some smoked ingredients, such as bacon.
Maniçoba
  • Pato no Tucupi: is made with duck (pato), jambu and tucupi, the same liquid used to prepare Tacacá. People eat this food with rice and pepper.
  • Vatapá
  • Caruru
  • Açaí
  • Regional Beers: Amazon Beer Company in Estação das Docas has a number of award winning beers with the flavors of fruits and other plants native to the Amazon such as Açaí, Taperebá, Bacuri and Priprioca.

Drink[edit][add listing]

The refurbished warehouses by the riverside, Estação das Docas (or simply Docas) offer a number of outside tables, and fairly expensive menus. Amazon beer has an in-house brewery and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights offers an all you can drink and eat special for R$36.

  • Botequin, (Some 3 km South from Praça da Republica). Live music and DJs, good on Wednesdays Entry R$ 10.  edit
  • Açaí Biruta, (By the bay, next to the cathedral). Mostly reggea, some rock. Beached boat built in, hammocks. Good on Sundays. Entry R$ 7 when live music. Big beer R$ 3..  edit
  • Mormaço, (By the Mangal).  edit

You should try the genuine beer from Pará, which is called CERPA and can be easily found.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are two main areas for accommodation, both featuring the full range:

  • On and around Avenida Presidente Vargas on the very edge of the commercial center, and also close to many sights, but rather seedy and not too safe in its smaller alleys at night.
  • The area around the bus terminal and São Bráz, somewhat easier going.

Budget[edit]

  • Hotel Amazônia, Rua O de Almeida 548 (Just of Praça da República and Presidente Vargas), 00 55 91 3222 8456 (), [1]. checkin: 11AM; checkout: 11AM. Cleaned, friendly staff and save place. WiFi included in the price Dorms R$ 15, Singles R$ 23, Doubles R$ 35 or 42 (with bathroom).  edit
  • Hotel Hilton Belém, Av. Presidente Vargas, 882 (Across from Praça da República), 00 55 91 4006 7000 (), [2].  edit
  • Hotel Regente, Av. Governador José Malcher, 485 (12Km from the airport), 00 55 91 3181 5000 (), [3].  edit
  • Hotel Sagres, Av.Governador José Malcher, 2927 (near from the Terminal), 00 55 91 4005 0005 (), [4].  edit
  • Hotel Ver O Peso, opposite of ver o peso market. Terasse with view of Market and Amazon River. Double R$ 65 with bathroom..  edit

Three places within 50 meters of each other at Travessa Frutuoso Guimarães, some three blocks inland from the Docas.

  • Fortaleza. Kitchen and laundry, popular among backpackers, friendly and funny owner/manager speaks French, virtually no sound barriers between rooms. Basic. Single R$ 15, shared bathroom.  edit
  • Hotel Palácio. High ceilings, restaurant for cheap lunch. Single R$ 15, R$ 25 with bathroom..  edit
  • Vitória Régia. Basic Single R$ 25, shared bathroom.  edit

Just down the street is the nicer

  • Ver-o-centro. Single R$ 55.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Belém is now a large city, take care when walking after nightfall along Presidente Vargas and the back streets that lead off from it. Although no worse (and perhaps better) than other Brazilian cities there is still a lot of poverty so try not to have jewellery or cameras on show when walking around. The city is generally safe and friendly during daytime. Estacao das Docas is always a safe if rather touristy option. The Umarizal area has up market local bars and restaurants. Avenida Joao Paulo Segundo (previously called Avenida Premeiro de Dezembro) has some more "down to earth" and very local bars. Generally there is a lot of night life Thursday, Friday and Saturday ask for advice. Although worth a visit try and avoid Estacao da Docas which is really only for tourists.

Stay healthy[edit]

While in Belém you should not drink tap water, though you can use water from the tap to wash vegetables, brush your teeth, etc. As Belém is located approximately 100 mi south of the equator, the sun is particularly strong year-round, so fair-skinned travelers should apply sunscreen on a daily basis. Additionally, be sure to apply mosquito repellent when going out after sunset. Malaria is not a major concern in Belém, but if you are traveling to remote areas of Pará during the rainy season you should, after consulting with your doctor, consider taking malaria pills. The CDC recommends getting a Yellow Fever vaccine for travel in Pará and many other parts of Brazil. You can learn more about recommended vaccinations for Brazil on the CDC website [5].

Get out[edit]

P7013812.JPG
  • Ilha do Mosqueiro is the closest beach area (after Outeiro) to Belém, some 80 km away. The island is surrounded by sandy river beaches (some developed more than others) with fresh water and because of the size of the estuary often large waves. Buses at least every half hour from the bus station. Boats on weekends and high season.
  • Icoaraci some 25 km north of the centre offers a pleasant bayside walk with quite a few bars and restaurants. Car ferry for Ilha do Marajó leaves from here. Local buses from downtown.
  • Salinópolis or Salinas offers the nearest sea beaches. It is a beautiful place with nice beaches (Atalaia, Maçarico, Farol Velho etc...), a three hours from Belém, and it is a good place to visit/stay (at least one night). The original town is Salinopolis. Atalaia and Farol Velho are beautiful beaches except at weekends and holidays when they can resemble car parks with thousands of visiting cars from Belem. If you drive along the beach far enough you will get away from the crowds, but if you have a car be careful of soft sand and the tide!
  • Ilha do Marajó is possible as a day trip, but consider spending at least one night. Many agencies offer packages, but you can usually do the trip for cheaper on your own. [6]. Boats leave from Companhia Docas do Pará (CDP), located near the intersection of Ave. Marechal. Hermes and Travessa Rui Barbosa, at 6:30AM and 2:30PM Monday-Saturday and 10:00AM on Sundays. It is advisable to go to the CDP a day before you plan to travel to purchase your ticket. Tickets are $20 BRL. Boats from Marajó to Belém leave at 6:30AM and 3:00PM on weekdays and at 3:00PM most Sundays. For more information, visit the Banav website [7]. It is advisable to go to the CDP a day before you plan to travel to purchase your ticket. Tickets are $20 BRL and you can only purchase your return ticket in Marajó.

Once you arrive in Camará, the port of Marajó, there will be a number of buses waiting to take travelers to any number of the cities in Marajó. The popular destinations include Soure, Salvaterra and Johanes.

  • Ilha de Algodoal is a beautiful Island, and there is one of the most preserved beaches in the North of Brazil in there (Princess beach). [8]
P6303766.JPG
  • Crispim is possible a day trip.
  • Santarém two hours from Belém by plane. But do consider a two or three day boat journey up river (rather less when coming back down with the current).


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